Over-editing in Photoshop: A Big No-NoAlta Philippines School
Over-editing in Photoshop is a chronic problem. When photographers first get and learn to use Photoshop, they often are in awe of its capabilities but do not have the skills to use it properly. As a result, many start out playing with filters and plug-ins and over-use them. Sometimes photographers feel Photoshop is all powerful and take images that should have been in a reject pile, and they try to “save” them. As a rule, Photoshop should not be used to save unacceptable photos. If a photo is out of focus, blown out, severely under-exposed, or has really awkward composition, Photoshop will not make it drastically better. Used in excess, it can actually make the image worse.
Here are 10 of the most common mistakes photographers make when editing retouching images:
- General over editing – often, but not always, the best edits are subtle and enhance what is good about the photo.
- Over popping the colors – while I love vibrant color, many who are new photo editing, give their images an almost neon color. When you edit watch for details in your color areas. If these start to disappear, you have gone too far.
- Using the latest editing fads on every photo – I understand the need to experiment as an artist. But think about the longevity of your editing. What edits might go out of style? Clean post processing will never go out of style. Rich black and white conversions are not likely to either. Currently I see a lot of photos converted with a “fake” hazy look. Yellow skies seem to be another “fad” which may look good occasionally, but probably not if used on every photo. Years from now, we may wonder how much pollution was in our air. And while I love the look of dreamy sun flare when captured in camera, if you add it in post processing, really judge if it adds to your image. And please do not add it to every image. These fads may add to certain photos, but definitely will not make every photo look better.
- Blowing things out – many like bright photos, me included. But when editing, make sure to have your histogram and your info palette open. Constantly check for numbers creeping into the 250s (255 is totally blown) in any of the channels (R, G or B). If you have a photo that already has blow outs, and you shot RAW, go back to Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, or Aperture and decrease exposure or recover it. If you have spots of blown areas or speckles lighting, be more aware when shooting, and move locations.
- Adding too much contrast and losing details in shadows – Similar to blowing out information is clipping your shadows, so that the dark areas are pure black. When your see numbers in your info palette close to or at zero, you have no information left in the shadows. Back off your conversion by lowering opacity or even masking.
- Messing with curves before you know how it works – “Curves” is possibly the most powerful tool in Photoshop. But it is intimidating to new users. Most either avoid it or misuse it. If used improperly, you can do more harm than good to your highlights, shadows, and color. When skin turns orange, many times the culprit is an s-curve. Turn your blend mode to luminosity when this happens so the curve does not impact color and skin tones. If you want to learn more about curves, check out the MCP Curves in Photoshop Training Class.
- Muddy black and white conversions – Converting to gray-scale alone is rarely an effective method for a rich black and white. Even when using better methods, like the black and white adjustment layer, gradient map, duotones, or channel mixers, you may need to use curves to help. Also be aware of your color. If you convert to black and white because your color was horrible, likely your black and white will not be as rich either. I always fix color prior to converting to black and white.
- Heavy toning of monochrome images – Occasionally this can be pulled off well, but often times a light tint to a monochromatic conversion is nice is a better choice. Sepia and really heavy toning often looks out of place. Chose tones and opacity of them carefully.
- Blindly using Photoshop actions without understanding what they are doing – Get to know the program before diving in. And get to know your actions too. Understand what each does so you can get the best results and have the most control.
- Cropping like crazy – Definitely some photos benefit from cropping. But remember when you crop in Photoshop, it throws out pixels and information. So if you are unsure what size you may need, keep your edited photo pre-crop too. Beware of cropping in too close in case you need a different size ratio later. With cropping, also make sure you are not chopping your subject at the joints (like wrists, elbows, neck, knees, ankles, hips, etc)